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Technological advances drive innovation in plant breeding to create new varieties

About

‘Plant breeding innovation’ is the term we use to describe the constantly evolving ideas and practices which enhance the field of plant breeding. Today’s innovations in plant breeding are developed using sophisticated science and technologies including cell biology, gene mapping and marker-assisted breeding.

New Breeding Techniques (NBTs) and Precision Breeding Techniques (PBTs) refer to the tools and methods used to develop new varieties more precisely and rapidly. These techniques reflect the scientific discoveries of the time. For example, in the twentieth century an increased understanding of plant physiology and molecular biology accelerated the development of new varieties that would probably not have been achieved by breeders using traditional selection alone. Twenty-first century innovations build on this knowledge to develop varieties in response to the environmental, agricultural and social challenges of our time. Innovations in plant breeding cannot and will not replace traditional practices, they simply increase the range of tools available to plant breeders.

Through innovation we can produce improved varieties that sustain and potentially increase yields and are better adapted to withstand disease and the effects of climate change, such as drought or floods,  supporting sustainable agriculture and food security.

Benefits

“Seed is Life” is the slogan of the International Seed Federation. Our vision is a world where the best quality seed is accessible all. Our mission is to promote plant breeding and innovation in seed. We know that developing better seed ultimately improves lives.

  • Sustained and increased crop yields: Seed that is resistant to pests and disease and can withstand the effects of climate change results in more abundant and reliable harvests for farmers. Seed that is regionally adapted to different environments and growing conditions means that we can produce more crops from the same land.
  • Enhanced nutrition: Thanks to innovations in plant breeding farmers can grow high protein crop varieties – insufficient protein in the diet is a significant contributing factor to under-nutrition.
  • Better food quality: Innovations in plant breeding have given us food that stays fresher longer. Many types of fruit and vegetables can be transported and stored more easily, thus extending their shelf life and reducing food waste.

Regulation

Solutions to global challenges in plant breeding regulation can only be found with all stakeholders working collaboratively. As the global seed trade increases there is a growing need for consistent criteria that determine how the products of the latest plant breeding methods are regulated.

Countries have a range of different systems to evaluate and regulate new products entering the market which may lead to trade barriers and competitive disadvantage. To facilitate the trade and movement of seed around the world we need to start with a level playing field.

A key issue for plant breeders worldwide is ensuring that the criteria used to regulate products developed through the latest plant breeding methods are consistent across countries. Clear public policy is essential to ensure the use of these breeding methods is not stalled at the research and development stage.

  • ISF promotes innovation in plant breeding and advocates government policy that is based on sound scientific principles.
  • ISF believes that is is only necessary to differentiate regulation of new varieties where it makes scientific sense.
  • ISF advocates consistent criteria for regulating the latest products of plant breeding innovation.

Consistent, science-based policy and an appropriate level of regulation enable farmers and consumers around the world to enjoy the benefits of products developed through the latest breeding methods.

For more information see the ISF Plant Breeding Innovation Statement and Principles.